(This story ran in the print edition of The Seattle Times Oct. 19, 2011. – Janet I. Tu)
The performances this time will come from The Black Keys and OneRepublic, not Miley Cyrus and Dave Matthews.
The venue will be University Village, not Bellevue Square.
But the M.O. and goal are the same: Generate excitement for the opening of a Microsoft Store, and hope that carries over to the brand and the products in the store.
The latest Microsoft Store — the software giant’s 12th — is to open Thursday morning at University Village, right across the parking lot from an Apple Store.
High-profile events are scheduled, including the opportunity to play on Kinect for Xbox 360 game consoles with retiring Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller and former Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez on Thursday, and performances by The Black Keys and OneRepublic on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
The new retail store, with 40 to 50 employees, is the second for Microsoft in the area. The Bellevue Square store, where Cyrus and Matthews performed, opened last year.
Nationwide, Microsoft plans to open two more this fall — in California and Virginia. And Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner said earlier this year that the company plans to get to 75 stores in the next two or three years.
The idea is to put a fun and friendly face on a company sometimes perceived as stodgy, and to better position the brand in consumers’ minds — a weak spot for some Microsoft products.
While Microsoft dominates with its Windows operating system and its enterprise operations for businesses, its record with consumers has been spottier.
It leads in sales of its game console, the Xbox 360; and the Kinect for Xbox, with its motion-sensing and voice technology, has been popular.
But that buzz hasn’t translated into significant sales of Windows Phone, which lags far behind its competitors.
The company is even farther behind in the market for Web tablets.
That’s why having a way to reach customers directly and give them hands-on experiences with Microsoft products is especially important now, with the expected launch of the newest Windows Phone 7.5 Mango handsets sometime in the next few weeks.
And Windows 8 Web tablets are coming, perhaps as soon as 2012.
“Where else can they showcase their products?” asked Kate Newlin, a New York-based business-strategy consultant. “A number of the classic places have dried up, gone away, like Circuit City. Even at the places that are still around, they can’t really do what it is they’d like to do to tell the bells-and-whistles pieces.”
(Continue reading the story here.)
(Photo: Microsoft Store manager Melinda George leads associates in a team-building cheer as they train Tuesday at Seattle’s University Village. The store opens Thursday and is the company’s second retail operation in the area. Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times)